Quality Reference Standards for Monitoring Nitrosamine Contaminants

By: Vicki Yearick, Reporter US Volume 26.4

Nitrosamines are commonly occurring organic chemicals that pose a serious health threat to humans. They are easily formed by the reaction of an amine and a nitrosating agent such as nitrites, nitrogen oxides or nitrous acids. Laboratory studies have demonstrated that many of the nitrosamine compounds are carcinogenic in animals when ingested.

Nitrosamines can be found in many different settings and situations, including air, water and soil. They are also found in cured meats, beer, tobacco smoke, dried nonfat milk, cosmetics, personal care products, and the gastrointestinal tract of humans and animals (4,5).

Recently, more attention has been given to the presence of nitrosamines in drinking water. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently requiring public water systems serving more than 100,000 people to monitor drinking water for N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) and five other nitrosamines during the 2008 – 2010 period (3). These chemicals form as a by-product of the chloramination of water to remove trihalomethane compounds. Although no target level has yet been set for drinking water, NDMA is believed to pose a cancer risk when present at a level between 0.7 ng/L – 2 ng/L (1).

The occurrence of NDMA and other nitrosamines has also been documented in recycled water effluent, industrial wastewater discharges and sewage sludge (2). All are sources of groundwater contamination, and provide the opportunity for nitrosamines, if present, to work their way into drinking water sources.

Because nitrosamines are present in many matrices at part-per-billion and part-per trillion levels, a high degree of sensitivity and proper sample extraction is required to monitor for their presence. Capillary GC-MS is the preferred analytical technique and requires the use of quality reference standards.

To meet the needs of analysts, Sigma-Aldrich offers nitrosamine reference standards in the form of neats, single- and multi-component solutions for the monitoring of drinking water, foodstuffs and other matrices. All raw materials used in the production of these products have been screened for identity and purity. The single- and multi-component mixtures are gravimetrically prepared and quantitatively analyzed by GC-MS. A certificate of analysis accompanies each standard.

Nitrosamine standards may also be prepared in specifically tailored combinations of concentration, components and solvents utilizing our custom chemical standards program. Testing options include quantitative analysis or your own supplied procedure. Please contact our Technical Service department at techservice@sial.com to learn more about this service.

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  1. Eaton, Andrew Phd. From NDMA to Nitrosamines and Beyond? Emerging Contaminants Seminar. Water Quality Technology Conference and Exposition 2004
  2. World Health Organization. N-Nitrosodimethylamine in Drinking-Water. Background document for development of WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality. (2006)
  3. URL: www.epa.gov/safewater/ucmr/ucmr2/basicinformation.html
  4. URL: www.cosmeticsinfo.org/HBI/17
  5. URL: www.lpi.oregonstate.edu/f~w00/nitrosamine.html

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